It’s that time of the year when we reflect on the accomplishments of athletes in myriad areas of sports and reward them for their stout play during the past 12 months. A week ago CONCACAF (The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football), the governing body for soccer in this region, released its list of top players whose performances last year left us lifelong impressions.
Performers for national and club teams from different age groups were considered and voted on by technical directors, national team coaches, captains, media personnel and fans from among the Confederations’ 41-member associations.
Heading the list of individual awardees are U.S. national team forward Abby Wambach and Costa Rican Goalkeeper Keylor Navas cited as the CONCACAF Female and Male Players of the Year.
Wambach’s year-long accomplishments were highlighted by her Golden Boot award as the leading goal scorer in the CONCACAF Championship and World Cup qualifying tournament in the fall. She finished the tournament as the USA’s leading scorer in World Cup qualifying with 18 goals, including a four-goal performance in the championship game versus Coat Rica, when the U.S. won, 6-0. Her performance was the second such feat in a match. Shirley Cruz of Costa Rica finished second to Wambach, who plays for the Western New York Flash of the New Women’s Professional League (NWPL).
Navas was outstanding when he led Costa Rica to the top of its group and into the quarterfinal round at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil It earned him a contract with Real Madrid of Spain, the best club team in the world; it was Costa Rica’s best World Cup performance. Navas’ countryman Bryan Ruiz was second in this category. Costa Rica’s Jorge Luis Pinto won Coach of the Year award, and Luis Fernando Suarez of Honduras was second.
Among goalkeepers, USA national team player, Tim Howard, who plays his club soccer for Everton of the English Premier League, was outstanding when he led the U. S. to the Round of 16 and made history for the most saves in a World Cup game with 16. Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa was also outstanding in the nets and was voted second.
For the Goal-of-the-Year, Ruiz’s one-time volley shot to lead Costa Rica over Italy a World Cup group match, won the day, with Esteban Ramirez’s goal for Herediano over Saprissa in the Costa Rican league last month voted second.
In the referees’ category, USA’s Mark Geiger, a former mathematics teacher from New Jersey, was named Referee of the Year after outstanding performances in three World Cup games in Brazil. He was later chosen to carry the whistle in the 2014 MLS Cup and was also named 2014 MLS Referee of the Year. Marco Antonio Rodriguez of Mexico was second in the voting.
The Trinidad and Tobago men’s under-20 team, led by Head Coach Derek King, will prepare for the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Miami Lakes (FL) from Jan. 1-7; the squad will practice at St. Thomas University. The tournament kicks off in Jamaica on Jan. 9, when Trinidad and Tobago plays the host, and runs through Jan. 24, 2015.
“This camp is a much welcomed one for the team,” King told the Trinidad media last Wednesday. “It’s an excellent opportunity for us to be together as a team in a camp environment before our first match in the tournament.”
Among the 20-man squad are several players from U.S. colleges: defender Leland Archer (College of Charleston), midfielders Duane Muckette (University of South Florida) and Brendon Creed (Temple University) and forward Ricardo John (Virginia Tech University). The rest of the squad is Akim Rodney Andrews, Kadeem Corbin, Maurice Phillip Ford, Akeem Ancil Garcia, Levi Garcia, Kevon Goddard, Akeem Brenton Humphrey, Shannon Jurmark Gomez, Neveal Irwin Hackshaw, Jabari Anthony Mitchell, Jesus Angelo Perez, Jovan Jerrod Sample, Kishun Kirt Seecharan, Martieon Clyde Watson, Johan Jullian Welch and Matthew Charles Woo Ling.